LONDON — British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said today he did not try to cover-up allegations of sexual harassment against former Liberal Democrat party chairman Chris Rennard.
Clegg, the Liberal Democrat party leader, denied in an e- mailed statement today that he knew about specific allegations against Rennard, who oversaw the Liberal Democrat’s election strategy and sits as a lawmaker in the House of Lords.
Chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, then Clegg’s chief of staff, spoke to Rennard when he heard non-specific claims about him five years ago, Clegg said in the statement.
There will be an investigation into the claims by women who used to work for the party that Rennard harassed them, Clegg said. The allegations, which were first reported by Britain’s Channel 4 news, are denied by Rennard.
“When indirect and non-specific concerns about Chris Rennard’s conduct reached my office in 2008, we acted to deal with them,” Clegg said in the statement. “My Chief of Staff at the time, Danny Alexander, put these concerns to Chris Rennard and warned him that any such behavior was wholly unacceptable.
“Chris Rennard categorically denied that he had behaved inappropriately and he continues to do so. He subsequently resigned as Chief Executive on health grounds.”
Because the complaints were made indirectly and anonymously the party was limited in how far it could proceed once Rennard had resigned, Clegg said. There will now be an investigation into the allegations against Rennard and another probe into whether the party followed the correct procedures in dealing with the complaints.
“I am absolutely determined that both these investigations will be carried out thoroughly and comprehensively,” Clegg said. “These investigations may well reveal flawed procedures, and clearly the women concerned feel they were not properly listened to, but I totally reject the insidious suggestion that my office or I are responsible in any way for a deliberate cover up.”
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